A number of important neurological diseases, including HIV-1 encephalitis, Alzheimer's disease, and brain trauma, are associated with increased cerebral expression of the multifunctional cytokine transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF-beta 1). To determine whether overexpression of TGF-beta 1 within the central nervous system (CNS) can contribute to the development of neuropathological alterations, a bioactive form of TGF-beta 1 was expressed in astrocytes of transgenic mice. Transgenic mice with high levels of cerebral TGF-beta 1 expression developed a severe communicating hydrocephalus, seizures, motor incoordination, and early runting. While unmanipulated heterozygous transgenic mice from a low expressor line showed no such alterations, increasing TGF-beta 1 expression in this line by injury-induced astroglial activation or generation of homozygous offspring did result in the abnormal phenotype. Notably, astroglial overexpression of TGF-beta 1 consistently induced a strong upmodulation of the extracellular matrix proteins laminin and fibronectin in the CNS, particularly in the vicinity of TGF-beta 1-expressing perivascular astrocytes, but was not associated with obvious CNS infiltration by hematogenous cells. While low levels of extracellular matrix protein expression may assist in CNS wound repair and regeneration, excessive extracellular matrix deposition could result in the development of hydrocephalus. As an effective inducer of extracellular matrix components, TGF-beta 1 may also contribute to the development of other neuropathological alterations, eg, the formation of amyloid plaques in Alzheimer's disease.
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